Problem: Paul asks, “Shall I come to you with a rod?” Did Paul really intend to beat the Christians in Corinth with a baseball bat?
Solution: The “rod” is an OT allusion to discipline. Proverbs teaches, “He who withholds his rod hates his son, but he who loves him disciplines him diligently” (Prov. 13:24). Proverbs also speaks of the “rod of discipline” (Prov. 22:15). Elsewhere, “the rod” is coupled with discipline (Prov. 29:15).
“What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness? (1 Cor 4:21)”